NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Health Coverage Declines As Patients' "Rights" Grow

February 24, 1999

On Capitol Hill, both Republicans and Democrats are pushing for various versions of "patients' rights" legislation. But medical care analysts warn that the intervention this would bring will drive up medical costs and result in fewer Americans being insured.

  • The number of Americans without health insurance has grown from 31.8 million in the late 1980s to 43 million today -- an increase which many analysts attribute to the rise of health-care mandates in certain states.
  • Insurance premiums rose faster in states which required insurers to take on certain patients and required community rating than they did in states which didn't adopt such "reforms," according to research undertaken by Georgia State University's William S. Custer on behalf of the Health Insurance Association of America.
  • Custer also found that the 30 states which have mandated especially broad mental health coverage also saw an increase in their uninsured populations.
  • Looking at variations in health insurance among the 50 states, Urban Institute researchers found that when states increased requirements for alcohol and drug abuse treatment, overall insurance coverage decreased.

Experts say these are clear warnings that in health insurance there is no free lunch and eventually somebody pays -- often those who must abandon their coverage because they can no longer afford the premiums.

Source: Editorial, "Who Pays for New Rights?" Wall Street Journal, February 24, 1999.


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